The Lowdown on 5 Main Types of Web Hosting

When it comes to web hosting, most newbies are confused by the different options presented to them. Every web host out there has a bundle of different web hosting packages and associated features, making it confusing for them to select the one most suited to their needs. In reality, most packages are very similar in the service that they deliver. The big differences are found when you start comparing the different types of hosting.

Any Hosting Plan is Good Right?

Not really. This is one of the most widespread misconceptions when it comes to hosting plans.

If everyone had the knowledge to differentiate good plans from the not so goods, there wouldn’t be so many review sites, and so much discussion on the web about hosts not delivering on promises.

The reality is that many people who buy hosting are not conversant with even the most basic terms in the hosting industry, such as bandwidth and RAM, and that allows companies to spread their server resource very thinly, and sometimes charge a fair bit more than they should- and a lot more than others charge for the same level and type of server resource.

Another thing to be aware of is that the marketing is not always totally “fair and transparent”. Hosting packages on shared hosting plans that are described as “unlimited” are not truly unlimited. They are unlimited until the server resource allocation required to service your website rises to a level where your site impinges on the performance of other customers sharing the resources. With some hosts you are then given a very short window to upgrade your hosting, and in some cases your site is deactivated.
If you are on the wrong type of hosting you may face problems with your website in the form of slow page load speeds, downtime, and unresponsive scripts. The other side of the coin is that you may end up paying for more server resources than you need. It is a fine balancing act, where scalability (the ability to upgrade your hosting capacity and power seamlessly) is absolutely key.

So, let’s take a look at 5 of the main types of hosting so you can better comprehend what each is designed for, and which matches your requirements.

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Free Hosting

Don’t get too taken with the name. The truth is, for a business, there is no such thing as free hosting.

Free hosting is a service where your site is on a large platform and you can normally have a very limited number of monthly visitors and bandwidth. For instance, WordPress’ blogging platform online offers free hosting. It isn’t really hosting though- it simply lets you create a blog with them.

You get a sub-domain for your blog, such as ‘www.myblog.wordpressblog.com’. This is ok for some personal websites, but you need your own domain name if you run a business.

There are also lots of other limitations that normally come with free hosting. You can’t post ads, and you can’t really design or develop an interactive website, for example. All you can do is pick a blog template and start blogging on a personalized version of it.

Who Should Use Free Hosting? Free hosting should only be used by students and amateur bloggers who are not looking to generate a serious following, or online income. It is not recommended for businesses or bloggers who want to build a serious online presence.

Shared Hosting

Next in line is shared hosting, which is a viable option for some small and even medium sized businesses. As the name implies, shared hosting is where your website is hosted on a server along with other websites. The server resources are shared between many websites.
Your website is configured as a separate website on the server and you do get admin rights to it, along with the cPanel. The downside with this type of hosting is that security levels and reliability can be poor. Why? Because malware and heavy server resource consumption by others on your server impact on the performance of your website. If the server goes down, your website goes down. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was.

Another issue with shared hosting is that you are never 100% in control when it comes to server configuration. Since you are not paying for the entire server, you are usually confined to a set of general configurations that suit the ‘average shared hosting user’, and, more importantly, suit the web hosting company. You will rarely get shell access.

Despite the apparent negativity around shared hosting here it is still the most popular form of hosting today. Why? Because it is affordable and gives you access to plenty of features to run a basic site, and even run WordPress, Joomla, Magenta and other Content Management Systems. In most cases, shared hosting is sufficient for new business start-ups that expect limited numbers of visitors to a relatively small website.

Who Should Use Shared Hosting? Shared hosting is perfect for businesses and individuals who want to run websites with a few pages, and don’t require lots of functional capacity. The packages usually come with enough bandwidth and space to run an average business website. However, if your website will consume a lot more bandwidth, processing power and space, such as video hosting websites or social media websites, then this option is not for you. Equally, if your website is business critical then you will be rolling the dice a bit going for shared hosting, as server performance is outside of your control.

Virtual Dedicated Servers

Virtual Dedicated Servers are widely known as Virtual Private Servers (VPS). These are more or less the same as dedicated servers, but they are more cost effective.

Some find the concept with this type of hosting tricky to grasp. With dedicated servers, you have a complete physical server of your own, but, with Virtual Private Servers you get a ‘virtual’ server created by the hosting provider on a server.

Confused? Let’s simply it – the hosting provider will create several virtual servers on a server. Although these come with most of the same benefits as a dedicated server, such as reduced security risks and increased server control, they are more limited than dedicated servers.

In other words, virtual private servers are the middle way between shared hosting and dedicated servers. No other website is running in your area of the server; you are boxed off. But, do note other websites have their virtual servers on the same machine.

You get to make configurations on your virtual server and each website or virtual server acts as a separate entity. Your neighbour’s website won’t affect the performance of your website. But, if another website affects the overall physical health of the server it will affect your website too.

Who Should Use a VPS? Virtual private, or virtual dedicated servers, are best for companies looking for a low cost alternative to dedicated servers. You get enough freedom to set your own configurations, but the level of security is not as high as it is with dedicated servers.

Dedicated Hosting/Servers

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Dedicated hosting is the premier standard form of web hosting, where an entire server is dedicated to storing and running your website files. There are a lot of advantages with dedicated hosting, but many consider dedicated hosting quite expensive.

The hosting provider will be allocating an entire server just to run your website(s). There are a lot of features and benefits that you get with dedicated hosting. For instance, since you practically own the server, you can make just about any changes to the server that you like, as long as they aren’t prohibited by the hosting provider terms and conditions. You can change the server’s configurations, add more layers of security to it, and increase its efficiency by using disk cleaning and maintenance software, and so on.

The best part about dedicated servers is that, since the server is only running your code, you don’t have to be worried about downtime or security threats caused by other websites. If the hosting provider meets its Service Level Agreements and keep the server online and connected 24/7, there is very little that can affect your website’s performance.

Who Should Go For a Dedicated Server? Online businesses who expect huge volumes of traffic, or require lots of disk space should go for dedicated hosting/servers. Since you have control and manage your own serve you will need a server expert, or at least someone very tech-savvy, to set up and manage the server. Those that run lots of websites, or have business critical website functions they need to have control of normally opt for dedicated servers.

Managed Hosting

Managed Hosting is not actually a separate type of hosting, but rather one of the sub-categories of dedicated hosting. However, since it is extremely popular and often misunderstood, it was only right that we consider it here.

Similar to dedicated hosting, with managed dedicated hosting, you get an entire server to yourself. The good part is that you don’t have to do the server management. The hosting provider acts as the manager of your dedicated server. You list down all your requirements and the hosting provider will deploy the technology for you; hence the name ‘managed hosting’.

Managed hosting comes with the same benefits as dedicated hosting topped with professional help from hosting experts.

Who Should Go For Managed Dedicated Hosting? This is for anyone who has the requirements of dedicated hosting but is neither technical nor has the IT resources to manage the server. This is a much more affordable option than hiring your own server manager, as the host’s server managers will spread their time between several clients. If you are running ‘heavy’ websites, such as video or audio hosting websites, or social media websites, and you don’t want the hassle of managing them, then managed dedicated hosting is for you.

Final Words…

When it comes to selecting the best hosting provider and package for your website there are a lot of things that you need to know. Try to understand the basic terminology, such as bandwidth, databases, cores, CPU, RAM and disk space.
Getting a grip on the terminology will help you understand the packages and their benefits much better.

If you don’t really have an idea, talk to our customer support team to figure out which package suits your requirements the best. We offer free advice and will make sure you find the sweet spot, balancing point between what you need and the cost, so you make efficient use of your budget.